Malaysia: Sharks put ‘in the soup’

MUGUNTAN VANAR The Star 13 Mar 16;

KOTA KINABALU: The over-fishing of sharks has reached a point where it is no longer sustainable, and this will adversely affect the country’s seafood supply chain.

WWF-Malaysia’s Marine Prog­ramme Sustainable Seafood manager G. Chitra Devi said sharks were a wildlife species whose existence played a crucial role in keeping the ecosystem healthy.

“The high consumption of shark fins in Malaysia causes sharks to be overfished. The decline of sharks will cut short our supply of seafood and affect human survival.

“This is a matter of food security and if the present trade of sharks continues, businesses will exhaust their supply of fins and sharks,” she said during a campaign by the Sabah Shark Protection Association to create awareness on the conservation of sharks and urge the people to stop consuming shark fins.

Chitra said the over-fishing of sharks was simply not sustainable as sharks could not reproduce fast enough to cope with the high demand, resulting in their population dwindling rapidly.

According to the association, sharks prevented potential outbreak of diseases and helped improve the gene pool of other fish species, which were crucial for the continued supply of fish as a major and affordable source of protein.

It added that sharks kept the populations of commercial and non-commercial fish in check, enabling only healthier and stronger fish to remain and reproduce in larger numbers, keeping the marine ecosystem stable.

The association also expressed concern that despite studies confirming the shark’s role in the ecosystem, various types and sizes of sharks were fished daily and ended up as a meal, mainly in the form of shark’s fin soup.

Together with various non-governmental organisations, the association champions the protection of endangered sharks and sting rays in Sabah through three core areas – habitat protection through existing or new Marine Protected Areas; the strengthening of governance and law, and continued raising of awareness, especially among consumers; and engagement with the business sector to reduce pressure on sharks in the wild.

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